Experiencing gender

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By: Annie Sragner, Arts & Life Editor

Throughout my existence in a female identity, I find myself frequently reminded of gender time and time again. Gender is not one overarching, universal concept; it is many cumulative experiences that build upon each other. Through my experience, I have found that womanhood is not about having two X chromosomes, being an emotional caregiver or having feminine energy, it is the contrast that makes our collective experience unique.

I am reminded of gender every time I walk around city streets at night and realize that I can’t wear headphones because I have to be aware of my surroundings, or that I have to look over my shoulder to make sure no one is following me.

I am reminded of gender every time I think about how expensive it is to be a woman. Each time I stroll down the “Women’s” aisle, I cringe at the exorbitant price tags on the pads and tampons that I have no choice but to buy. This same experience reoccurs when I go over to the razor aisle and I see that pink razors cost significantly more than blue ones, in spite of the fact that they serve the same purpose.

Even though white women still only make $0.78 for each dollar a man makes–and the disparity for minority women is even more severe—we are still required to pay more for these gendered products. The gender wage gap and the pink tax are very real trends that people of all genders need realize.

I am reminded of gender every time I have to reassure myself of my autonomy when I walk past a construction zone and have to ignore a bunch of hollering dudes who are trying to get my attention.

I am reminded of gender every time I am told to “calm down” or that I’m being “too emotional” for speaking my mind—even though a man guilty of the same charge is congratulated for his “leadership” and “initiative.” Each time I fight that my voice wants to grow softer from the discouragement of not being taken seriously.

I am reminded of gender every time I think of my future and consider what career fields I may feel uncomfortable in as a woman. I am reminded every time I think about where I could travel or possibly live and the rape statistics discourage me from going there.

These are not just female experiences, they are human experiences. Instead of suffering in silence, all individuals of all identities need to speak up against these injustices. No one person can change the system by themselves, but by fearlessly sharing our experiences, we can open more eyes to the reality of our circumstances.

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